St. Joseph Home to Open New Expansion Site in Northern Sharonville in 2019

Photo by Tracy Doyle


“Our people are individuals who have gifts to offer to the world,” says Molly Robertshaw, St. Joseph Home (SJH) Director of Community Advancement. “We work with individuals who have dreams and goals and our job is to find ways to bring those to life.”

As a long-time provider of services for infants, children and adults with complex disabilities and  medical needs, SJH, based in Sharonville, Ohio, opened its first Adult Day Program in Blue Ash in 2013. SJH took this step in advance of the reduction of quality and
cost–effective day program services for their residents. In 2015, SJH’s Adult Day Program, initially launched for residents only, grew again and began serving individuals from the broader community. In mid-2019, the  program will grow yet again to more fully meet the community’s unmet need, a consistent mission across the organization’s diverse 145-year history.

The core mission of SJH’s Adult Day Program is to ensure that those served are engaged in the world around them as they so choose, and that they are valued for their contributions.

“Our goal is to help make the people we serve more visible, and that by doing so, we can start to change society’s perspectives about their potential and possibilities,” Robertshaw adds.

The Adult Day Program expansion comes not a minute too soon, she and other SJH team members emphasize.

According to estimates, approximately 400 people who meet SJH criterion for its Adult Day Program  are currently unserved or underserved due to the challenge of finding disability services. More than 40 individuals are served at the current Blue Ash facility weekly, and the new expansion site to open in northern Sharonville will engage more than 25 additional individuals weekly by the middle of 2021. SJH’s 40 percent increase in day programming capacity will test innovative programs and services such as:

  A community-accessible site where the individuals involved have the opportunity to engage with the broader community even a short  “rolling” distance away.

  Regular assessment and development of program participants’ functional and communicative abilities to ensure participants can engage even more fully.

  Staff training to ensure that  practices related to community belonging, strength-based development, person-centered planning and design thinking are driven by staff and participants together on a daily basis.

“Right now we have 32 people from St. Joseph Home and 12 people who live at home with their families elsewhere in the community attending our present program,” explains Amy Hess, Day Program Manager. “We have four program focuses – communication, skill enhancement and development, discovery and learning, and support community belonging. Our goal is to support and challenge participants in the program so that they are able to build relationships and have greater opportunities for engagement in the broader community.  We want them to have the same opportunities you and I have, to find and enjoy things that interest each person, so we’re supporting them in that.”

Because many of the participants in the program communicate in ways other than typical vocalizations, discovering their personal likes and interests is an ever-evolving, ongoing process.

“It’s experimental in a lot of ways,” Hess notes. “Most of our individuals smile and even laugh when they like something, or we can tell when they don’t like something because they withdraw. We can offer choices, and they can choose by reaching for something or by using their eyes.”

While clues from body language and expression are a big help, computerized equipment known as switch devices and other means of high-tech communication assistance are an even bigger boon to SJH participants and residents.

“The relationship begins there – through one-on-one interactions between the individuals and the staff working with them so they build rapport and trust,” says Becky Watson, Vice President of Community Services at SJH. “That’s how you pick up on nuances that someone who doesn’t know the residents personally might not pick up on. We are fortunate because we have a lot of long-term staff who know the participants very well.”

It takes a compassionate, caring team consisting of an individual and those most important in their lives – such as mom, dad, siblings, an aunt, uncle, friends – to work together to determine each individual’s needs and how they might best connect with the greater community, she notes. “We get a full life perspective on a person to determine what they want and how we can best serve them. From there we build a plan and act upon it.

“Community belonging is something we have had to define for ourselves. There isn’t a lot out there on how to make that happen,” she continues. “So, we did a deep dive and realized it must be very individualized. We’ve been involved with Xavier University with some of the research as we determine what community belonging looks like and how we can measure it.”

Watson hopes the expanded Adult Day Program will act as a catalyst for cooperation and partnerships between SJH and other local and state organizations, even reaching as far as  support for employment opportunities for program participants.


Pathways to Opportunities

Because no life pathway is “one size fits all” no matter a person’s ability status, St. Joseph Home  staff realize it takes time, patience and plenty of exploring to determine each individual’s life purpose and how to set it in motion. As such, Watson and the Adult Day Program team continue to embrace the challenge of broadening perspectives, pushing boundaries and dismantling social barriers.

The model for the expanded Adult Day Program, “Pathways to Opportunities,” outlines SJH’s personalized approach to meeting the needs of those they work with by helping each adult discover their world and community surroundings. Key aspects include helping individuals connect and establish meaningful interactions and relationships with others in the community beyond those who are paid to care for them; encouraging volunteerism, giving individuals the opportunity to gain skills, possibly obtain employment, promote goodness and improve the quality of life for all involved, as well as to give back to their communities.  Additionally, securing employment provides some individuals a sense of accomplishment, personal satisfaction and self-actualization, giving them a greater purpose in their lives and allowing them to make contributions to the world around them.

In 2017, for example, Angie, a longtime SJH resident, acquired a communication device – controlled with a switch activated by her elbow – that selects pre-programmed context to produce audible speech. She now enjoys volunteering her time reading to children at SJH and greeting people in the reception area. Another resident, Danuelle, volunteers with Mathew 25 Ministries, enjoying the many opportunities to meet new people and socialize. John enjoys spending time in the kitchen and practices his culinary skills as he works toward achieving his employment goals.

“It’s a start. We are taking the time to learn all we can,” Watson says. “It’s not an end game. It’s just us moving along, bettering ourselves, the individuals whose lives we serve and society as a whole. Everyone has gifts to offer, but a lot of our individuals are not necessarily seen in that light because they are not seen contributing. Our Adult Day Program will give them the opportunity to contribute their gifts and be recognized for that. Our society suffers when peoples’ purposes are not able to be fully lived, and we hope the community will see that and realize we really are better together.”


St. Joseph Home is located at 10722 Wyscarver Road, Cincinnati, OH 45241. For more information, visit